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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Forgiven

Isaiah 43:25 "“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again." NLT

Some days there is a song that just touches my heart as much as a scripture verse...

I was surfing through some "You Tube" videos and came upon a Gaither video of "It Is Well With My Soul". Of course, this is an old hymn and I've probably heard it and sung it hundreds of times, but tonight there was a verse that just reached out and grabbed  my attention in a new way.

"My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
It is well..."  (Horatio Spafford)

How often I forget the magnitude of what the Lord Jesus did for me on His cross! When I think about my sins being forgiven, is it bliss? A GLORIOUS thought? And not just one or two of my sins...not just part...the whole thing! All of it! Gone! I bear it NO MORE!  According to Isaiah, He never thinks of them again. Why wouldn't I want to praise the Lord?

"O Dear Jesus, Please don't ever let me take Your work on the cross and my forgiveness for granted. I can never grasp the magnitude of Your love for me or the act of Your dying just for me. May I never get over the awe of it. Thank You for loving me so much."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Singing in the Shadow

Psalm 63:1-4, 7 "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory. Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands....Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings."

The caption under Psalm 63 in my Bible reads "A psalm of David. When he was in the desert in Judah". You might wonder why David was in the desert - by this time he was King David. Why hang out in the desert? Turns out, he was running for his life and not from just anyone, but from his own son. Absalom had gathered himself an army and decided he was going to overthrow his father. Talk about a desert. David wasn't just wandering physically, he was wandering emotionally and spiritually. This must have been one of the driest, most devastating times of David's life.

Have you ever felt like you were just wandering around in the desert - alone, miserable, relationships ruined? What do you do when your life is dry and barren?

David did what David almost always did. He turned to God in his desert. He acknowledges that God is his God. How much more poignant does verse one become when we read that his soul thirsted for God in a land where there was no water? David's desire for God was desperate. David remembered his history with God - he had beheld God's glory. David knew what God could do and he knew that God could bring him out of his desert place. David remembered how God had loved him and said he would praise Him for the rest of His life. He knew that God was his protection.

When was the last time you were desperate for God? When did you long for him like a dehydrated man longs for water? When did you last physically ache to be in God's presence?

We read yesterday that He aches to hold us - what if we had that same ache, that same desire to be in His presence? In verse 7, David once again talks about the shadow of God's wings. This time that shadow would be a shield from the scorching heat that would sap every last ounce of his strength. Here he would find the rest and renewal that would cause him to break out in song! He knew his provision and protection came from God. He knew that only God could satisfy him, no matter where he was. He knew God was the only way out of the desert.

"Lord, give us the desire for your presence, your provision, and your protection only. Show us Your glory - even in the desert places of our lives. Help us to know Your love. Show us that You are our help and that when we finally find our way to the shadow of Your wings we will find a new song there."

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Shadow of His Wings

Matthew 23:36-39 "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Murderer of prophets! Killer of the ones who brought you God's news! How often I've ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn't let me..." (The MSG)

I am such a nerd. One of my new favorite websites is the Eagle Cam from the Norfolk Botanical Gardens in Virginia. This is a live streaming video of a bald eagle's nest that currently has three two-week old chicks in it. I could watch it for hours. Eagles mate for life and both parents care for the babies. This afternoon while I was watching the mother eagle brought a fish back to the nest and gently tore bits of meat and placed it in the mouth of her babies. Then as the afternoon moved into dusk, she pushed the fish aside and began to position herself over the chicks. She has a special arrangement of feathers on her chest that close around the chicks, then she slightly lowers her wings so that her sides are covered. Next she takes her beak and pulls loose nesting material up around her to enclose every little space. To me it is fascinating.

Tonight as I watched her gather her little brood tenderly underneath her, I could not help but think about Jesus crying out over Jerusalem. The care that this mother bird shows her babies is exactly the kind of tender care that Jesus said he wanted to show to the Jews...and to us. I love the wording from The Message that says he "ached" to embrace them. In the NIV, He says He longs to gather His children to Him.

In the eagle nest, there is one chick that is getting very independent. He wants out. He doesn't want to be under the wings of his mama. That is a little restrictive - it's also dangerous. Adult bald eagles don't have many predators, but babies are very much at risk out from under the protection of the parent.

If we could only see ourselves like these vulnerable little chicks. Instead, we want to assert our independence. We want to do our own thing. We don't want God restricting our activity. We don't understand that life out from under His wing is dangerous. He aches to embrace us and like little children, we squirm out of His grasp so we can go our own way. We need to learn to submit, to follow His guidance, and to allow Him to be our protection.

Psalm 17:8 "Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings..."

"Lord, Help us to pray like David to be hidden in the shadow of your wings. Forgive us when we try to break free and go our own way."

Just in case you are as big a nerd as I am: http://www.norfolkbotanicalgarden.org/e-community/eagle-cam

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Keeps You From Worship?

Acts 16:22-25  "The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown in to prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them."

What is worship to you? Where do you worship? At our church the auditorium is called the "worship center" - is it? What do you do to prepare yourself for worship? How do your circumstances affect your desire or ability to worship?

Consider - Have you ever said or heard someone say this about a worship service:
  • The building was too hot/cold.
  • We don't sing enough hymns/praise and worship songs.
  • The service is too traditional/too contemporary.
  • Preacher too loud/not loud enough.
  • Someone got my seat/parking place.
  • I can't believe he/she wore that to church.
All of these things distract us from worship, from giving God the adoration and attention He deserves.

Now consider this - You are arrested on false charges.Someone takes you out and chains you to a pole. They take a whip and beat you until the skin is ripped from your back and there is nothing left but raw flesh. When you are almost too weak to stand from the pain and loss of blood, you are placed in a jail cell with some less than desirable characters. Just to make sure you don't go anywhere, your raw and bloody back is placed against a stone wall and you are chained to it. Do you feel like worshipping? Is praising God for His goodness the first words that leap to your lips?

Paul and Silas prayed and sang in the midst of tremendous pain. Their outward circumstances did not determine their ability to worship - their inward circumstances did. They could worship anywhere at any time under any circumstance because they understood that what God has done for us is greater than any pain we may have to endure - physically, emotionally, spiritually. They understood that their bodies were the temple of the Holy Spirit that lived in them and that they were bought with a price (I Cor. 6:19). They understood that we do not come to the sanctuary to worship - we bring the sanctuary with us.

What is keeping you from giving God the attention He deserves? Is it REALLY that important? Worship Him right now for who He is and for what He did for you. It's ok - He gave you a portable temple..

"Lord, forgive me for being distracted when I should be worshipping and for letting anything come before You. Help me to focus on You and Your greatness in spite of how I feel or what kind of mood I'm in. Thank You for living in me and letting me be Your temple."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Purging the Evil

Deuteronomy 22:21  "You must purge the evil from among you."

I never really thought I would enjoy reading through the book of Deuteronomy. Truthfully, I can't say it will go down as one of my favorites, but I have found some wonderful verses as I have been reading through Moses' last book of law to the Israelites. For example, Deut. 11:25 promised divine protection to those who were obedient by literally promising that he would put fear and terror into the hearts of those they encountered. Kind of lends new meaning to the phrase "putting the fear of God" into someone.

As I read through, I have begun to notice a phrase repeated over and over. "You must purge the evil from among you." Over and over, God instructed the Israelites to rid themselves of murderers, idolators, adulterers, drunkards, and other violators of the law. Some were cast out and some were killed - ALL were to be separated from the rest of the nation.

No tolerance here. No political correctness. Just a command for obedience and holiness.

What has happened to us? We have failed to purge the evil and now the evil would purge us...

What to do?
  • Examine ourselves and begin the purging process individually. We must all strive for personal holiness - the kind the world will see and want to share.
  • Pray that God will give us the strength to regain a Godly value system and to rid our society of the evil we have begun to tolerate. 2 Chron. 7:14
  • Obedience to God's Word.
  • Stand firm in our belief against the political correctness of the world.
You are my portion, Lord;
I have promised to obey your words.
I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.
Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
I will not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your rightous laws.
I am a friend to all who fear you,
to all who follow your precepts.
The earth is filled with your love, O Lord;
teach me your decrees.

Psalm 119:57-64

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Immanuel - God With Us

(Today's comments are not original to me. I have a couple of devotional books by a woman named Ann Spangler that I love. The comments today come out of "Praying the Names of Jesus".)

What does it mean to say that God is with us? Surely it doesn't mean our lives will be easy. It doesn't mean we will be insulated from failure or doubt or that God will take our side in every argument. (Here I would also add insulated from tragedy) But it does mean we will never face even a single struggle alone. It means the Lord will never withhold the help we need to do His will. It means that ultimately we will come out on top even if we feel like we're living most of our life on the bottom.

What difficulties are you facing? Chronic illness? Troubled children? A broken marriage? Financial hardship? Take a moment today to stop imagining yourself surrounded by your difficulties and instead begin to envision yourself as you really are - surrounded by the presence of your faithful God. Invoke His name - Immanuel. Decide today to do everything in your power to follow Him. Then ask for His peace, pray for His protection, and open your life to His power.

Promises in Scripture:

Exodus 3:11-12 "But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" And God said, 'I will be with you."

Joshua 1:5-9 "I will never leave you nor forsake you...Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Isaiah 43:2-3 "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour."

Matthew 28:20 "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Hebrews 13:5-6 "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

Continued Prayer and Praise
Pray Joshua 1:9 when you are afraid.
Be encouraged because no one can prevail against you if God is with you. Isaiah 8:10
Remember that Jesus will not leave us orphans. He will show Himself to those who love Him. John 14:15-21

http://annspangler.com/

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Prayers Like Incense

Romans 8:34 "Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."

Revelation 5:8 "...And when He had taken it [the scroll], the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."

The Offering

The fire is lit - Smoke is rising
Fragrance fills the air.
Jesus whispers - The Father's smiling,
He is pleased with my prayer.

The Spirit leads - As I worship,
Sweet aroma fills the room.
Lifting hands - My focus upward,
Praising Him dispels the gloom!

Lord, I know I am not worthy
Before Your holy throne to come.
But Jesus died - My sins atoning,
Forever death He freed me from.

Now, because He sits beside You,
The Eternal, Sacrificial Fire,
I can offer praise as incense
The fragrance lifting ever higher.

Thank You, Father, that You love me.
You gave the final sacrifice
So I could give my life an offering,
You paid the once and only price.

Judie Britt
October 2000



Friday, March 18, 2011

God's Image

Genesis1:26-27 "Then God said 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness'....So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."

John 15:9-12 "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's  commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: LOVE EACH OTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU."

What does it mean to you that you are created in the image of God? Do you think of it as a physical likeness or a spiritual one? Have you ever stopped to consider how you are God's image to those around you?

I have a sweet friend that came to me this week very burdened about a major life change she is facing. I could have remained across from her, handed her a tissue and told her it would all work out. This time I didn't. I gave her a tissue, then I held her and cried with her. I told her I would pray for her and I did. I don't yet know the state of her relationship with Christ, but I have an idea. She needs Jesus. She needed Him on Thursday and He was right there in the room - in me.

I don't always have such stellar moments. I get very impatient when the driver ahead of me does not realize that I should always have the right of way. I get angry and lose my temper, I say things I shouldn't say. I can have a royal attitude when the mood strikes me. I do not always display the image of God in a positive light.

In the Gospels, the religious leaders came to Jesus and tried to trap Him by asking whether or not they should pay the tax. Jesus asked them whose image was on the coin and they responded, "Caesars". From there we have Jesus famous reply, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's". The coin was stamped with the image of Caesar, but our very lives are stamped with the image of God. How are we rendering that which is His back to Him?

"Lord, I am so sorry for the times that I have portrayed You in a less than positive light. Help me to remember that the Christian life is impossible to live unless I allow You to live it through me - I can't do it. Because I am made in Your image, I pray that You would help me to see others through Your eyes, reach out to them with Your arms, and share Your heart with them."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tolerance vs. Grace

John 14:6 "Jesus said, I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life. NO ONE comes to the Father except through me."

     Today, I feel a bit of a soapbox coming on...Yesterday I talked about measuring the truth against God's Word. So if John 14:6 is THE truth, how does that affect my life?
     Yesterday as I was working on my Sunday School lesson, I came across an interesting question in the material:

"List substitutes for grace that you have observed in society."

Hmmm...good one. I had to think for a few minutes. I thought of the "sexual revolution" of the 60s and 70s, the increased permissiveness in our society, a few related commercial jingles came to mind. Then it dawned on me...in our culture we have substituted tolerance for grace.
     What do you think of when you think of a gracious person? Dictionary.com defines them as "pleasant, kind, courteous, merciful and compassionate, indulgent, beneficent in a condescending way." It lists synonyms as benign and mild.
     I cannot think of anyone more gracious than our God. He is certainly merciful and compassionate. Other than that, the definition above just sounds like a nice person who let's you do what you want. Doesn't sound like God, sounds like tolerance. We have redefined grace.
     Instead of applauding the sinner who comes to God and allows His grace to change them, we have adopted an "I'm OK, You're OK", many paths to God approach. We "graciously" smile and nod and tell folks they can believe whatever they want in the name of being tolerant. Unfortunately, we are tolerating them right into hell....
"Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
He rises to show you compassion,
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him!" Isaiah 30:18
Yes, He is gracious AND compassionate, but He is also just. He is not tolerant.
     So back to John 14....how does this change me? If I truly believe He is the only way and He is just and He does not tolerate sin, I should be sharing His grace with everyone I meet. I should be taking His truth to the world. Grace and truth...definitely not politically correct.

"Lord, Forgive me for not being more bold in sharing my faith. Give me a true burden for those around me that do not know the truth of Your grace and compassion. Help me to always be looking for opportunities to share You with the world around me. Thank You for loving me enough to extend your grace even to me."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

To Tell the Truth

Psalm 25:4-5 "Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me You paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior and my hope is in You all day long."

     How do we know the truth? All day long we are bombarded with billboards, commercials, TV shows, magazine ads, political statements, etc. and they all want us to believe that they have the truth.
  • Ford would like you to believe that they have a better idea....than what?
  • Loreal wants you to believe that you should use their cosmetics because you're worth it...a box of haircolor from the drugstore is all I'm worth?
  • Kay Jewelers wants you to believe that every kiss begins with them...Really???
     So how DO we wade through all of the hype and get to the REAL truth? How about this one:
"If you hold to my teachings and you are really my disciples, THEN you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."  John 8:32
     The truth is...God had the best idea of all - He sent His Son to die on the cross for my sin and yours because we couldn't fix ourselves - that's what I'm worth. As for the kiss, well, how about we love God because He first loved us - that began with Him. When we live in that truth and measure all other "truth" against His Word, then we are set free.
     As Lily Tomlin used to say, "That's the truttttttthhhhhhh".

"Lord, As I am bombarded all day long by the world for its attention, help me to remember that my hope is in Your truth all day long. Help me always to measure every decision, though, or action against the truth of Your Word."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Have You Seen the Light?

1 Corinthians 15:10  "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect."

(Acts 9:1 - 19)

     I have studied the life of Paul at various time over the years, but recently was awed anew by the magnitude of his conversion. I began to see for the first time how God had moved in Paul's life from his very birth, not just from the time of the Damascus Road experience.
     Paul, himself, notes that he was chosen at birth for his mission and ministry. Even though his persecution of Christians was persecution of Christ Himself, God chose to save him rather than destroy him. God used his deplorable life and actions as a powerful example to us of what grace and mercy can do.
     God saw him as he trained at the feet of Gamaliel. He watched as he persecuted His followers. God was with Paul on the Damascus Road - He even stopped to chat. If ever there was one who could sing "I once was blind, but now I see" it was Paul as the scales dropped from his eyes and he truly began to experience God's Amazing Grace!
     God was certainly with him as he began his new life and became the greatest missionary in history and writer of most of our New Testament.
     Why is this so significant and how does it apply to me? No matter where I go or what I do, I can never escape Gods' love (Rom. 8:38-39). Even when it seems I have traveled too far to come back, He is right there with me -waiting. He can take any life any time (including yours and mine) and use it for his glory!
     Have you seen the light?

"Father, Thank You for Your compassion and love that is willing to give us all a second chance. Help me recognize when You shine Your light in my life to get my attention."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

God's Hands

Isaiah 49: 6  "See I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me."


I have been a nurse now for almost 30 years. One thing I know - nurses are nothing if not resourceful. Anyone who has been in the nursing profession for any length of time has, at one time or another written themselves a note on their hand. It may be a patient's vital signs, a note from a doctor to transcribe later, or just a reminder of something that needs to be done. Whatever it is, it is there so that something will be remembered. Sooner or later, the task will be completed and the note will be scrubbed off. Out of sight - Out of mind.

God, on the other hand (no pun intended), has not only written my name on His hand - He has ENGRAVED it there. He has chiseled Himself a constant, permanent reminder of ME into one of the tenderest parts of the body - the palm of the hand.

Questions Arise:
  • How big must God's hands be that they hold the names of all of those He loves?
  • How big must God's heart be that He wants to remember us so badly that He has cut our names into His hands?
  • I wonder if those reminders are oddly in the shape of a nail scar?
God has made Himself a reminder that will never wash off. I am never out of His sight or out of His mind.

"Lord, I don't know if every individual's name is on your hands or if the nail scars serve as a reminder for all. Either way, it is unfathomable to me that You love me so much that You want to think of me always. It is so out of the reach of my understanding to even know how You think of every person at the same time! You are so much bigger than we can conceive and yet You love each individual and want to know us intimately. You are truly an amazing God!"

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Perspective

Acts 16:22-25 "The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God..."

Paul and Silas weren't having such a great day...but some days things happen that put everything in perspective...

     Monday, February 28 was not such a great day. It was a stressful day at work. We have new employees training, billing issues, staff shortages, and attitudes. I work in an office full of women that is often long on hormones and short on fuses! (And I love them all!)
     In the midst of the chaos at work, my daughter calls. She needs a fax...now...I have to help her. I don't really have time to deal with this, but apparently - neither does she.
     Of course, I leave for home - late - I leave her fax at the office. I spend most of my ride home trying to get it faxed or scanned to me. Fortunately my commute is an hour one way so I had plenty of time to work on it... This is how I find out that my husband has had our fax line disconnected and has no idea how to connect the phone line to the fax machine...
     I forgot I had a hair appt and ended up eating peanut butter for supper. And as any working woman knows, the demands don't stop when you get home.
     Just about the time I am ready to run screaming into the night, the call comes from my daughter in law: PRAY. A truck has hit an IED near Jared's unit. Jared is ok, but others are not so fortunate. One is dead and there are others with horrific injuries. I guess they didn't have such a great Monday, either...
     Actually, looking back....
  • We are short staffed and stressed at work because we are busy. In the current economic climate, I have job security.
  • Thanks to a helpful employee who stayed late to help me, I got the errant fax emailed to me and I didn't have a wreck in the process.
  • The urgent fax my daughter needed was to clear up an insurance error. We got it staightened out and it saved her a LARGE sum of money and allowed her to renew her tag. Some days she is still very dependent, but she is alive and healthy.
  • The demands at home come from having a family that care about and help each other.
  • I like peanut butter
Most of all - today - my son is ok. Somewhere, a mother has learned that her son is not coming home the way she planned - instead he will be coming through Dover AFB. Others are learning of the horrible injuries, treatment, and recovery issues they will be facing.

WE ARE SO BLESSED AND WE DON'T EVEN KNOW IT. Paul and Silas knew. That's why they could sing at midnight..

Lord, Help us not to get so caught up in the day to day that we forget what is important - family, friends, relationships with others and with You. Help us to focus on our blessings and not on our frustrations.